In 1997, financial advisor Stephen Pollan and author Mark Levine stirred up some controversy with the four-step plan presented in “Die Broke.” This radical book became a national bestseller, but not everyone agrees with Pollan’s financial strategy, which includes essentially giving up on the idea of retirement. Many active adults are more comfortable with the conventional approach of saving for the future and leaving an inheritance to their children, but there’s no doubt that Pollan’s strategy has changed the way some active adults approach their golden years.
One of the biggest appeals to the philosophy of dying broke is that it lets you live rich in the process. You can’t take it with you when you go, so why not enjoy spending it while you can? If that sounds like a selfish notion, keep in mind that this attitude doesn’t necessarily mean that you would be making frivolous purchases or even spending it all on yourself.
Instead, the concept of your established savings shifts so that you can give to your family now instead of passing on inheritance after you die. You could use your accumulated savings to take large family vacations, help your children buy their first homes or pay into your grandchildren’s college education fund.
Dying broke doesn’t mean living in debt, but rather doing away with debt and living within your own income. In fact, part of Pollan’s plan includes getting rid of credit cards and only buying what you can afford with cash in hand. That also means that you may have to give up on the idea of retirement and plan on working to earn some income until the day you die.
To protect yourself from unforeseen eventualities, Pollan recommends having a strong “base camp.” This means accessible savings which will cover three months of bills, as well as sufficient disability and life insurance. He also recommends taking a close look at health insurance, and finding out about financial investments which will support your plan for dying broke such as annuities and reverse mortgages.
Yet, for some active adults, the protection strategies that Pollan suggests may not feel like enough support to allay the fear of outliving their savings. Those who have built up a large nest egg may be quite happy with the success of their more conventional approach and prefer to keep saving for the next rainy day (major illness, disability or other calamities).
By following a more traditional approach, older adults may have a stronger sense of independence and security, as they are not reliant on the financial support of their children if they cannot continue to work. According to Pollan, following his four-step financial plan is the best way for active adults to be more in sync with today’s economic landscape. Yet his approach runs contrary to most of the financial advice active adults receive, making it feel like a very risky proposition.
As with any philosophy, what works for one person, may not be a comfortable strategy for another. Have you considered the concept of dying broke? Would you prefer to keep your nest egg and leave an inheritance to your children? Let us know in the comments below.